“God’s ultimate will is for you to get married.” “In order to be fulfilled, you have to find your ‘soul mate.'” “It is not good for you to be alone.” Sound familiar? These are common statements that are made within the church by well meaning pastors and teachers. But are they true? Does one have to be married to find dignity in God’s creation? Can someone contribute in a significant way to society, culture, and the church if they are not married? Does Genesis 2 teach that one must get married or, in God’s eyes, “it is not good”?

Let’s put this into perspective. How many out there are single? “With the increase in the divorce rate, the increase in the age at which people first get married, and with our increasing longevity, the experience of being single is now one of the most widely shared experiences of adulthood,” according to Bella DePaulo (visiting professor of psychology at the University of California-Santa Barbara). Single people now account for more than 40% of the adult population. This is up from 28% of all adults in the USA three decades ago. Now do you see the relevance of these issues? The church has done well dealing with a theology of marriage, but has not contributed much with regards to a theology of singleness.

Seeing as how I was a singles pastor for six years, I thought that I would give my theological “gems” of singleness to the blogworld. Well, I really only have one right now, and it is more like a piece of sand just before it makes its way into the mouth of an unsuspecting oyster. It may cause some irritation, but in the end, it produces something valuable!

The early chapters of Genesis give us some great foundational principles about human dignity and purpose. It is in these chapters we learn that man is the crowning achievement in God’s creation. It is here that we learn of God’s intention of placing all creation under the vicarious care of mankind. It is also here that we learn of the completion of humanity through the creation of the woman from the rib of a man. It is this last revelation that I have found gives singles much difficulty. The the discouraging thought is that being single makes me incomplete.

For those of you who don’t know, there are really three kinds of singles: 1) Young singles who are content and searching for a mate (usually in their early 20s). 2) Older singles (divorced or not) who are not content and searching for a mate (from mid-twenties and up). 3) Singles who are content in their singleness and not searching. My contention in this post will apply to all three, yet have a greater relevance to the second group.

Here is the proposition that I want to put forth: The theology of Genesis 2 in relation to the creation of the woman for man has implications for humanity in general, not simply for the marital relationship. When God said “It is not good for man to be alone” I believe this must primarily be taken in the sense of humanity in general. It was not good for man to be the sole representative of the human race. If God had left the situation as is after the creation of Adam, His image would not have been represented completely. God created woman to complete His image and thereby complete what was lacking in humanity in general. While Adam was the sole beneficiary of the woman at the time of creation, he represented all of humanity. Eve was created to complete Adam, but she also represents the completion that women bring to humanity in general.

What does this mean for singles? It means that men and women contribute to the image of God by their participation in humanity. If you are single, you, as an individual, still contribute to the completion of God’s image by your participation in society. In other words, singles don’t have to find a mate in order to find relevance and dignity.

When I teach Humanity and Sin in The Theology Program, I often start with this question to women: What do you like most about being a woman? I ask the men What do you like most about being a man? Whether it is my local students or my students all over the world, there is much commonality to the answers. Men, among other things, will always say that like being providers and protectors. Women, among other things, will always say they like being nurturers. Why? Because this follows God’s unique design for the sexes. I am a complementarian believing that God has created the sexes with unique gifts and roles that complement each other. Being such, I believe that the way in which we find dignity as individuals is to appreciate our distinct sex roles in the society, the church, and the family.

Taking the answers that I am given in the Humanity and Sin course, I then ask the men and women how it is that these innate and distinct pleasures are expressed in a godly way. Then I ask if these pleasures can be expressed outside the marriage relationship. After some time, everyone agrees that men can protect and provide even without a family. As well, women can nurture outside of the family structure. How? Because both sexes contribute to society in general in these ways.

Women nurture society, not just their immediate family. Women are those who nurture all God’s creation. Nurturing is much more than an act in a relationship between a mother and child. It has to do with providing beauty to the world in general. The beauty is expressed in so many ways. It also has to do with the emotional care and stabilization that they provide through their acute ability to sense needs and care for pains in a way that men are, often times, oblivious to. I know that when I am down and need someone to talk to – when I need someone to nurture me – the last person I will call is another male. I always seek to talk to a female. Why? Because they are the only ones who can contribute consistently by their understanding, tenderness, and compassion. This is a gift to the world that represents an essential part of God.

Men provide and protect society, not just their immediate family. Men are those who have a strong sense of their role to be physically strong and protective of those in need. While this does come in the immediate family, it also is a responsibility that God has given to all men, married or not. Single men should not see themselves as alleviated from this role simply because they are not married. All men should be ready to come to the aid of all those in need. Men are leaders and should not feel unfulfilled if they cannot lead within a family. Their leadership is a gift to the world that represents an essential part of God.

God’s ultimate will may or may not be for you to find a mate. If it turns out that you remain single for the rest of your life, this does not mean that you are alone. You are part of the “good” that God pronounced on creation, married or not. You have distinct roles that God has given and you are a gift to creation.

BTW: The last two sessions of my Humanity and Sin course deal with these issues specifically. You might want to check them out. You can watch them for free.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    15 replies to "“It is not good for man to be alone”: A Theological look at Singleness"

    • Threepwood

      This is a great subject to bring up. I am also a “complementarian” (didn’t know the word before.) and have often wondered why in the recent decades it is that the whole “equality”, especially with women’s lib, issue has been so vehimently argued. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that women can vote and have equal status, they are part of humanity as well. But to go so far as to say that women can do everything that men can do and visa-versa? I have always appreciated that the two genders are different.
      Men can’t give birth. Likewise women in general, won’t be as strong as men. Etc. etc. Each contribute to society. If we didn’t have one, it would be unbalanced. Thanks for this.

    • C Michael Patton

      You bet. Thanks for the response.

    • Sara

      I don’t agree 100% with the complementary view due to the fact that there are always some people who don’t feel as if they fit into the general charateristics of their gender, and this feeling often stems from the unique traits that God gave them. Telling them to deny those traits would be erasing the reason God felt compelled to give them to them (such as certain women who are completely turned of by acts of nurturing, but feel compelled to take positions of leadership where they are able to better fulfill the gifts God gave them).

      But I’m a horrible person to argue against complementarism because I am very comfortable with being a woman, and I do feel fulfillment by taking care of my students who range from being 2 to 35 years of age (with a great deal of my 20-30 years olds acting like 2 year olds!). I’m very grateful for the post, for I am making the cross over from the early-twenties-and-happy-about-being-single to the mid-twenties-and-getting-depressed-about-being-single. I keep needing a reminder that being single (especially being a Christian single) may just be a gift in itself. If only I could find a way to covince everyone at church, and my mother, this…

    • RussBob

      In some ways, I also believe this issue is related to the Christian sub-culture
      that you have discussed recently. I know my church experience is
      certainly different than for couples. I can identify with Sara’s comments
      from the standpoint that family, church and culture in general
      (especially the Christian sub-culture) has a tendency to look down on
      singles in the church. Many churches and ‘singles groups’ focus on
      preparing for marriage, meeting other people, etc. and not so much on
      developing character and gifts that God has given us. I think this
      shows up in youth groups too. (Not sure how
      you approached your single groups Michael, just making a general
      statement here). Quite frankly, it can get depressing even going to church
      and visiting family. The church actually reinforces a need and
      expectation to be married. I also find that this ‘pressure’ does get to many
      singles in the church and they force relationships which do not end
      up going well. Anyway, just my perspective.

    • sgmen31

      First, I am a category 2) type male and I lean more toward a
      Complementarian point of view then an Egalitarian point but
      if I meet a woman who feels she’s been led by God to pastor a
      flock and all signs indicate her life bears fruit then I do question
      which way is the more correct way. I would seem to me that God calls
      and uses those he needs and maybe the men just haven’t stood up
      enough in certain areas like Russian where many woman pastored and led
      over the years because there weren’t men around to do so.

      As for being single I live with it. In all honestly, I got married at 27 and was
      divorced before my 30th birthday because I was only like “5” years old when
      I married. I was god….and I had a resume to prove it. No marriage can last
      with two gods in one house and you know the rest of the story.

      I’m just growing up now (maybe I’ll be 20 soon…smile) and I am dating but
      I will wait on him to provide at age 40. However, I am resolved to the fact
      that if I don’t meet anyone then it is God’s plan for me and I need to accept it
      which is not easy to do.

      Also, I agree with the above post that not all women have (my words)
      nurturing qualities and some can in fact lead and so forth.

      God Bless to all this Father’s Day!

      Stan

    • johnnie

      I did not get the answer to the question.” it is not good for man to be alone” God said that himself and I think that he had made two of all the animals, birds and fish and adam did not have a person like himself to walk with. In chapter one God made male and female in the same body because he knew that to be in his image there had to be two. The sepration did not happen until after the sabbath day rest. God made woman early on Sunday morning, and He gave her some of his parts so she could reproduce like God himself.

    • Violet

      I never know what to do with the nurturing thing. I don’t really have the skills to nurture OR lead. In fact, I’m not sure if I actually have any interpersonal strengths at all. Where would that leave me? I certainly do crave companionship and all that, possibly to a disruptive degree, but I have to wonder if God actually did mean for me to fit in society or if I am supposed to be in a desert somewhere fasting by myself.

    • Redwing

      Frist of all not ever one is the same I am alone and even if I don’t want to be most pepole just walk on buy and don’t even see me or even care.so I fought this for many years.and now it time for me to get off my ass and do my own thing.on my own.not every thing you read in the bible is qote for qote true.

    • justinlloydmckay

      1 Corinthians 7
      New International Version (NIV)
      Concerning Married Life

      7 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

      8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

      10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

      12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

      15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is…

    • Scot

      I have sought first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, some sins included, as best I could since becoming a Christian at age 19. All my life I have asked God to bring me a wife. At one point, I decided against a woman that was willing, at another I struggled after finding true love in an inter-racial relationship, but didn’t sense god’s blessing for marriage. I have sought God relentlessly for a wife my whole adult life, only to be led into solitude and church. I am now 57 and alone. I can attest, it is not good for man to be alone.

    • della stinson

      i have sin and made bad chose in my life i was not marriag hen i had childrens when i got marry i marry the wrong man it didn’t last i didn’t know god when i learn about god and his way and what he require of me i live alone for seven years praying to god had a relation ship him he live in me control me and if the feeling come i pray for him to remove it because i want to be marriage and do it god ways not my i had alread did it my way but it did work if i and anyone else do it god way it will work i meet a wonder man in church we are going to get marriage december 2013.

    • The Very Truth

      well that Obviously makes very much sense to me, but the biggest problem today is finding a good woman for many of us men that are still looking today since many of them are so very nasty to meet as it is.

    • Very good

      Must say that this article says what the bible does not say. god was not talking to humanity in general “I will make him a help meet suitable for him” we do not bend theology or create it because as the author says “it gives singles much difficulty” well wow God forbid his word should make anyone feel uncomfortable. God was talking about the man Adam who he had created and took Adams rib. The fact is Adam was created alone and god saw that he was very good but then says it’s not good for man to be alone. Also it’s better to marry and flee formication than to stay single. A person can still be officially single even if they sleep with someone new everyday. The issue is the heart. Don’t be praying to god for a husband or wife if you are preparing for them by fornicating. Repent of these things and even the thoughts and seek gods kingdom and his righteousness and he will give you the desires of your heart .

    • Travis Horine

      Read just the first part of this. I will try to read the rest later but I already see a problem with the idea that genesis was talking mostly about humanity in general but not about marriage The context includes marriage when it states ” for this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.” Clearly this is marriage.

    • Paul

      God did say that man should Never be alone which it makes much sense when i see so many others that have been very Blessed with a wife and family that many of us good single men are still waiting for.

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